We did it folks. Long gone are the iso routes and over-reliance on scramble plays; in comes the next man up in a line of potential coaching wunderkinds. The Green Bay Packers’ new coach, Matt LaFleur, was brought in to clean up the Packers’ offense and ‘repair’ Aaron Rodgers. To see how LaFleur might change up the offense, I went through The Tennessee Titans’ film and watched the passing game that LaFleur called. Even though the underlying offensive statistics (both through the air and overall) weren’t good, the playcalling didn’t appear to be the issue. Since I’m sick of talking to myself, let’s go through some of the passing schemes together.
There were two things that became abundantly clear about LaFleur’s offense in 2018 that Green Bay can easily replicate. Tennessee used tons of bunch and stacked receiver formations, and there’s a creative and heavily utilized screen game. None of those things have really ever been in the Green Bay offense; while the Packers do like to call screen passes, there is very little variation to them. Let’s talk about their formations first.
Bunch & Stacked Formations
Be prepared to see a lot of bunch formations in 2019. Tennessee loved to use a bunch formation; not only that, though, the groups of receivers were typically lined up close to the offensive tackles:
By having your receivers in a stack formation, this causes two things; first, it’s an immediate overload of most zone coverages. Second, it creates easy opportunity for pick plays right off the line of scrimmage; if a team decides to stick with press man, it’s difficult for defenders to fight through both the receivers as well as the other defenders.
To defend bunch formations, teams often do two things; they either switch the coverage into cover 2 or cover 3 zone;
or they pattern match but give cushion and swap off receivers if necessary while jamming the receiver on the LOS (the Texans were slow to line up here).
There’s a lot of cushion given, which creates ample room for hitches and quicker breaking routes. Not only that, but by having your receivers start closer to the QB, it makes the throw easier and faster. Marcus Mariota ends up throwing to the left side here, but pay attention to the bunch side:
That’s easier money than your high school acquaintance's multi-level-marketing scheme.
This wasn’t an unusual idea for LaFleur either. In the next clip they motion across the formation into a tight bunch but don’t throw to that side. When the defense shifts over to the bunch side, it leaves a cornerback and linebacker to cover a tight end and running back. Mariota recognizes the matchup on the backside, and they have Dion Lewis run an actual freaking route instead of a dumpoff. What a novel concept — a good route-running running back matched up against a linebacker, not just jogging to the sideline never expecting a pass. It’s a simple adjustment that Green Bay never decided to do under Mike McCarthy, and it hamstrung their playmakers. Anyway, watch the top of your screen:
Knowing that defenses run a lot of zone coverage against bunch sets, an interesting route concept that Tennessee ran was the double post, with a curl underneath.
The Chargers defend this play by running what is essentially a Tampa 2 to the bunch side, and leaving the backside in man coverage to fend for himself. #31, Adrian Phillips, drops to the deep middle and picks up the first post, while the CB and LB get focused on the curl route as they are the underneath defenders. Derwin James pulls a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and doesn’t get within 7 yards of anybody on the play, dropping way back. This leaves a window for the outside post in front of the safety and behind the linebacker.
Mariota was looking at the curl route, but he had a nice lane for the outside post.
Stacked formations essentially offer the same thing, without depleting the other side of your formation of receivers. Defenses will try to disrupt the man on the LOS and play soft on the receiver stacked behind him, affording the receiver time to get into his route or give ample space for quick catches.
Deception is at the heart of any screen call, and Green Bay’s screen calls have been as deceptive as a Nigerian prince emailing you for $2,000,000.
I want to start with my favorite one so far; the RB motion to a 5-wide formation jailbreak screen. Goodbye, soft coverage:
The hair on my arms stood up when I envisioned Aaron Jones doing this, with Lane Taylor and Corey Linsley out in front.
No, no, this simply won’t do. More wrinkles!
That’s more like it. Fake jet sweep, fake dive right, tight end screen left with your jet man blocking in front. I want this play to replace my blood, it makes me feel so good.
If a lack of creativity truly was the demise of Mike McCarthy’s tenure in Green Bay, then the answer may have arrived in the form of a tanned dreamboat named Matt LaFleur. It goes without saying that he will need to get Aaron Rodgers on board for any potential changes, but the blueprint is there for a new, innovative offensive scheme.